Monday, April 21, 2014

Ten Commandments Scavenger Hunt! Part Five, Commandment Six

Well, congratulations to Dave Micksch! Like the rest of you, as a contestant in the Ten Commandments Scavenger Hunt he was charged with finding me a contemporary cultural example of adultery (the subject of the seventh commandment). His response was quick and concise: "The obvious one is Clinton." Lacking nuance, perhaps, but I'll take it. Dave is now enjoying a complimentary copy of Ten: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided and Worn-Out Culture by Sean Gladding. This week, you could be too!

**Keep reading for a chance to win a free book!**
We are now at the midway point in our scavenger hunt. I've given away five books so far, with five more to go. That's how midway points work. Ten is set in the present-day, as a group of people gather at a local coffee shop and find themselves discussing current events and modern life as it relates to the "Ten Words," Gladding's preferred language for the Ten Commandments. Thanks to the mix of people around the table, we get unique and interesting insights into what the Words mean and how they continue to relate. It's a fun read by a great storyteller.

Sean considers the commandments in reverse order, so even though we're now on round five, we're discussing the Sixth Word: "Thou shalt not kill" (Exodus 20:13 KJV). This is about murder, sure, but there are all sorts of ways that all sorts of people inflict all kinds of mortal injury on one another all the time. There are no murderers around the table in Ten, but that doesn't mean no one has blood on their hands.

Get Ten by Sean Gladding at 40% off! Click here.
So take a look at this excerpt from Ten, and get those wheels turning to provide me with an example of the Sixth Word in play in our world today. Post it anywhere, using the hashtag #10Cscavengerhunt so I can find it. I'll announce this Word's winner on the next post.

***

"OK," said John. "Let's see where we are in our discussion. So far we've talked about or mentioned murder, carrying guns to prevent murder - or gun control to do the same - capital punishment, abortion and war. Are we missing anything?"

"What a depressing list," said Carlos. "I hope we haven't missed anything."

No one added anything else, and so John continued. "I wanted to come back to the difference between 'Do not kill' and 'Do not murder.' ... It seems all kinds of killing might be in view."

"But that doesn't make any sense," said Sam. "Why would God say 'Do not kill' if the word can mean 'Do not execute'? Because then God goes on to give commandments to execute people who kill someone!"

"Yeah," said Carlos. "How does that fit in with what Jenny and Ellie said about the death penalty?"

"And," continued Sam, "what about all the times when God tells the Israelites to kill people? Is that giving them a free pass to break the commandment? Is killing OK if it's divinely sanctioned?"

"That's the terrorists' justification," said Carlos.

"And the crusaders, right?" added Jenny. "Not to mention the churches that allow people to carry concealed weapons into worship services. Or that ask God to bless us in the wars we're fighting. Seems like 'Do not kill' doesn't apply then, huh?"

John leaned forward. ... "Nowhere in the New Testament do you find Christians killing people. All the killing is done to them - sometimes sanctioned by the legal authorities - and it's never seen as a positive thing." He sat back. "After all, Jesus himself suffered capital punishment."

***

Heavy, I know. This book, this chapter, was being written when James Holmes entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire, killing twelve and injuring dozens more. The scene shows up in this chapter because how could it not? We simply can't discuss the ancient command not to kill without grieving our world's seeming addiction to violence today.

It might be flip, then, to call for examples of contemporary acts of violence as part of a scavenger hunt, but that is our challenge this week. So let's take it seriously and approach it solemnly. Remember, use the hashtag #10Cscavengerhunt so I can find them.

Meanwhile, if you'd like to hear more about the book Ten, watch a video about Ten here:

***

Miss a scavenger hunt? See the whole series to date here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

We Will Open Our Eyes Wider

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” ...

She said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary."

***

And you know you'll be all right ...
This is not the end of us ...
***

He is risen. Hallelujah.

Happy Easter from Loud Time.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Few Favorite LPs for Record Store Day

For the past few years, I've managed to find myself in Seattle for Record Store Day. I have the Parish Collective to thank for that (thanks, Parish Collective!); their annual Inhabit Conference takes place in the Emerald City, and probably by accident it seems to perennially land on the same date as the annual ode to the LP.

There are, I believe, three record stores within walking distance of the Inhabit Conference, which takes place at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. I am confronted by my age when I go, as most of the music is way off the grid, way past my prime. But I go anyway, because records deserve my respect.

Find a record store near you! Click here.
This year, however, Record Store Day falls on April 19, the day before Easter, so I'll be home in Illinois. But I'll still try to track down a record store. It just seems appropriate to resurrect this classic musical form.

Records were big for me when I was a kid. My brother and I shared a room, which means we shared a stereo, which means we shared records - except the records I acquired when I accidentally committed mail fraud against the entirely innocent Columbia Record and Tape Club, who had graciously offered me eight records for a penny, and who apparently never got the eight dollars and forty-nine cents in cash I mailed them to cover their shipping and handling costs, because eventually they sent a collections agency after my parents for the full value of seventy-some dollars. Mom and Dad went off on that collections agency for taking advantage of a little kid, but they also recognized my culpability and took my records away. (I got them back as a high school graduation present, by which point I was pretty much over Judas Priest and John Cougar Mellencamp.)

I would sit in my bedroom listening to albums a lot, like an emo boss. I got a lot of mileage out of Queen's Greatest Hits, for example; I would play the song "Someone to Love," and then I would pick the needle up off the record and plop it back down at the beginning of the track to hear it again. We didn't have a fancy-schmancy repeat button, but we dealt with it.

My first record, that I recall, was Freeze Frame by the J. Geils Band. My brother's first record was Pyromania by Def Leppard; my sister's was (I believe) Seven and the Ragged Tiger by Duran Duran. I remember feeling vastly superior to her because by then I was listening to INXS's Shabooh Shoobah, a vastly superior album by a vastly superior band.

The most expensive record I ever bought was Sting's live concert double-album Bring On the Night, which cost me about eighty dollars because I got a speeding ticket on the way home from buying it. I had borrowed my boss's car to go get the record, and her license plates were expired, and I wasn't wearing my seat belt, so I'm lucky I got off as cheaply as I did. By the time I went to college, my dad told me I shouldn't spend so much money on records anymore, so I started buying tapes.

The end of vinyl as the dominant music delivery system arrived almost simultaneous to my graduation from high school. Maybe that explains my nostalgic attachment to it. It's not musical snobbery: I don't have the purist's appreciation for the superior sound of vinyl, and while I do like the tactile experience of placing a needle on a disc and then flipping it from side A to side B, I also like to press shuffle on an I-Pod and let the robots do the work. But there are some albums that I appreciate as whole pieces, and even though I no longer own one of my favorites on vinyl, and even though I've only ever enjoyed another of my favorites on cassette or Spotify, I still think of those albums as LPs - "long plays" - making music at thirty-three and a third rotations per minute. Here are ten of those special cases, hurriedly assembled in an order that could change at any moment.

10. The Beatles, Let It Be. Sure, Phil Spector went a little overboard on the "sheets of sound" for a few of the tracks, but it starts ("Two of Us") and ends ("Get Back") so perfectly, and all four Beatles are firing on all cylinders. Plus Billy Preston on the keyboards. What a way to end an era.

9. David Bowie, Aladdin Sane. I had a giant Aladdin Sane poster hanging in my dorm room. This album features my favorite Bowie song, "Panic in Detroit" - and for me to call a Bowie song my favorite is saying a lot.

8. Genesis, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. So good. I used to only listen to one of its four sides, but now I'm hooked from start to finish. Read the liner notes; total head trip.

7. U2, War. I think this was my first exposure to U2. It's the only one of their early albums I can't get enough of.

6. Stewart Copeland, The Equalizer and Other Cliffhangers. I knew a drummer in Des Moines, Iowa, who thought Sting was an idiot because he walked away from the greatest drummer in the world to pursue his solo career. Copeland's music is signature and cinematic; I often jump straight from this album to his score for the movie Rumble Fish.

Hear Stewart Copeland's "Tancred Ballet" here.
5. The Police, Ghost in the Machine. Speaking of Sting and Stewart Copeland, I first fell for the Police when I saw the video for "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." I decided I would totally hang out with those guys. And that's pretty tame compared to "Demolition Man" and "Hungry for You." So good.

4. Taj Mahal, The Best of Taj Mahal. My high school friend and band mate Dan Woolis gave me this album, I think as a graduation present. So much better than Judas Priest. A very folky kind of blues.

3. Squeeze, 45s and Under. This is the album I only ever had on cassette. But Squeeze immediately became my favorite new wave band. Songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were often compared to John Lennon and Paul McCartney; I don't know about that, but they were crazy with the wordplay. As greatest hits collections go, this one is missing several tracks, but the ones that made the cut are awesome, and when I hear them in a different sequence, I get a little confused.

2. Led Zeppelin II. I suppose everyone has a favorite Zeppelin track off this album. For me it's "Ramble On," which I liked long before I realized it was borrowing from The Lord of the Rings. But start to finish, a great album.

1. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours. It's no surprise to me that this is the album Fleetwood Mac is known for. I actually prefer to listen to it on vinyl. Not sure why, but it feels only appropriate.

That's my list. What records make your list?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Evolution of a Prayer

During a Holy Week service earlier this week we were led in the following prayer:

Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind;
* For the hungry and the homeless, the destitute and the oppressed
* For the sick, the wounded, and the crippled
* For those in loneliness, fear, and anguish
* For those who face temptation, doubt, and despair
* For the sorrowful and bereaved
* For prisoners and captives, and those in mortal danger
That God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.
It's a good prayer and worth praying. But it struck me as I prayed it that folks in these circumstances are often the objects of our prayers. And to pray this prayer is not, generally, to act more practically on their behalf. It is, essentially, to outsource their cares to God, while (inadvertently, of course) taking credit for their care.

One workaround would be to pray as a larger whole of whom these folks are a part:

Let us pray for all among us who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind;
* For the hungry and the homeless, the destitute and the oppressed among us
* For the sick, the wounded, and the crippled among us
* For those among us in loneliness, fear, and anguish
* For those among us who face temptation, doubt, and despair
* For the sorrowful and bereaved among us
* For prisoners and captives, and those in mortal danger among us
That God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.
At the very least changing the prayer in these minor ways acknowledges our proximity to these others in need. This takes the prayer up a notch in a couple of ways, most notably that we must acknowledge that we often do not have the will and patience to minister to the needs of those among us - and even more soberly, that there are potentially people in our midst who are in some way in mortal danger, imprisoned or held captive. We often think of the church as a place of escape, but in reality it is in many ways a microcosm, a locus for all the suffering of the whole world.

A more intriguing prayer, perhaps, is to pray not for those who suffer but for those who impose suffering on others:

Let us pray for all who inflict suffering or pain in body or in mind:
* For those who hoard food or refuse shelter, and for those whose actions have left others destitute and oppressed
* For those whose actions and decisions foster illness and injury, both temporary and chronic
* For those who engender fear, anguish and loneliness in others
* For those who sow or exploit temptation, doubt, and despair
* For those whose actions and decisions increase sorrow and bereavement in the world
* For those who hold others captive, or who place others in mortal danger
That God in his mercy will confront them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.
Here we are forced to acknowledge that suffering has its origins in real places, among real people. We are confronted not with the noble, distant, conceptualized poor but with the human headwaters of evil. Further, we are forced to contend with the idea that God loves even those who perpetrate evil, and that confronting evil is, in some mystical way, a ministry to those who perpetrate it.

And then, perhaps, to take the final step and acknowledge our complicity in the world's suffering:

Let us pray for all of us who have inflicted suffering or pain in body or in mind:
* For when we have hoarded food or refused shelter, and for when our actions or decisions have left others destitute and oppressed
* For when our actions and decisions have fostered illness and injury, both temporary and chronic
* For when we have engendered fear, anguish and loneliness in others
* For when we have sown or exploited temptation, doubt, and despair in others
* For when our actions and decisions have increased sorrow and bereavement in the world
* For when we have held others captive, or placed them in mortal danger, for our benefit
That God in his mercy will confront us, and grant us the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to repent and conform our actions and decisions to the God who died for the sins of the world and rose again to conquer death.